People are any company’s most valuable resource, so having an HR leader with great people skills is a must, as Shirley Borg’s success at EnergyCasino shows. 

What’s the best way to achieve a senior HR position in the igaming industry? You might expect the answer to that question to involve college, followed by a personnel-focused graduate trainee scheme and climbing the internal promotion ladder from there.

But it also entails a lot of people learning, which is a skill that only experience can teach you. This may be the reason behind Shirley Borg’s success as Head of Human Resources at Malta-headquartered EnergyCasino. 

An enviably strong academic record – which includes degrees in both Marketing and Management, along with a masters in the latter – was achieved alongside varied experience that demonstrated a love of continuous learning, commitment to hard work and genuine adaptability.  

Her career journey started at a young age and included spells dealing with difficult customers on a hotel reception, teaching English to foreigners from all around the world, working for an international retailer and running marketing for a yacht management company, before ending up at a global bank.

“We like teams to share their knowledge, so each department knows that they can rely on all the other departments”

It was there that she first became involved in HR and, as a natural people person, realised that it was the right long-term career for her. EnergyCasino soon gave her the opportunity to take on the “beautiful challenge” of establishing the growing operator’s HR department and Borg has never looked back, adding HR-specific qualifications to her CV while also taking a fresh approach to people management. 

One thing she has proved throughout her career is that the right attitude and an eagerness to learn is a winning combination; an approach which EnergyCasino took on when it comes to its recruitment efforts.

“We are a company whereby if you don’t have the full skillset, but you have the right mentality and drive, we are willing to teach you the ropes. We like to open doors for people,” Borg explained to SBC Leaders.

New starters can expect a four-to-six week onboarding programme, a grounding in the igaming industry and any additional courses they require related directly to their job. While some specialist roles require training by external experts, experience and professional certifications, the EnergyCasino ethos means team members are largely encouraged to learn from each other. 

“We try to train in-house and teach each other. We like teams to share their knowledge, so each department knows that they can rely on all the other departments. It makes for quite a nice atmosphere,” said Borg.

“…the recruitment process has changed drastically”

Designing an effective approach to training and fostering teamwork are just two of the many challenges that igaming HR leaders have to juggle. 

In recent years, one of the industry’s biggest challenges was finding the additional staff needed to drive growth at a time when skilled workers were in short supply. Competition for skills in Malta was particularly fierce, even before the pandemic caused expat workers to think more about the comforts of home, but Borg believes the situation has finally eased.

“Just last year it was different, but this year, given that unfortunately some gaming companies have left the island, we’re not having a problem finding skilled people,” she explained. 

“Of course, the recruitment process has changed drastically. Four years ago, you could open a role and wait for applications to come in organically, but now this is different. Qualified people need to be headhunted.

“We’ve been lucky, or perhaps we’ve just been good at recruitment, so the only skills gaps we now find difficult are when we are hiring for specific languages – especially if we need the person to have some gaming knowledge.

“The German language used to be the biggest challenge, then it was Japanese speakers who were difficult to find. Now we’re trying to recruit for the Romanian market and there’s a bit of a challenge there.”

“Throughout COVID people became more used to solitude, but loneliness does kick in”

The obvious answer to a shortage of locally-based speakers of specific languages is to look abroad for the right people. 

That is an approach EnergyCasino is happy to take but, despite technology making it possible to do many jobs from almost anywhere in the world, Borg prefers workers from other countries to relocate to Malta “unless they have family commitments that make it impractical”.  

She is a firm believer that both employers and employees gain real benefits from team members coming into the office and enjoying the communal side of work. That applies as much to overseas workers as to Maltese residents. 

“People have loved remote work and it’s become more the thing since COVID. So we’ve adopted a hybrid situation at the office, which we intend to keep,” said Borg. “But, in general, we like employees to be in Malta and to have contact with their teams, because our managers have seen a difference from that. 

“Throughout COVID people became more used to solitude, but loneliness does kick in. So post-COVID, we’ve worked really hard to get that family atmosphere back again. Obviously, there was an adjustment period, but people have adjusted to it really nicely and have been socialising again at the office. It’s really lovely to see.”

Part of the reason that Borg is so pleased to see people back in the office and enjoying themselves is that she has devoted a lot of her six years with EnergyCasino to creating a great working environment. 

“What has worked for us immensely is offering flexibility”

“When the company was very young, our main age group was very young too so the main attraction was social outings that united the teams, so we made sure to focus on that,” she recalled. “But as people matured and had children their priorities started to change and we adapted our benefits to their changing needs. 

“Now, there’s also generation Z in the mix and they have a completely different personality. It’s quite tricky, but we aim to accommodate everyone’s needs and create a fun environment for people to work in.

“What has worked for us immensely is offering flexibility. Our people have the flexibility of working from the office and working from home on rotation, and to choose their own start and finish times. We also now offer the option of working from abroad for up to six weeks through the year.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to let people spend the holidays with their families and balance that with their workload. People have really loved that.” 

She continued: “Appreciation is also a very, very big thing. It’s good leadership to show appreciation for your team’s commitment and praise them for their efforts.

“The company has also incorporated quarterly performance reviews. These serve as great catch-up meetings to see how people are doing and how we can help them develop. 

“…outside working hours their time is truly their own to enjoy with family and friends”

“People have really valued the chance to have a coffee with their managers in a relaxed atmosphere and discuss what they do well and what they need to improve on. That type of communication is so important to promoting a great work environment, which is why we also have town hall meetings to keep everyone up to date about what is happening within the company.” 

The approach is a real positive for the business in terms of employee satisfaction and retention levels. It also demonstrates that while money will always be a key motivator for workers, it is far from being the only one. 

“The values of the company are very important,” concluded Borg. “We’ve had people leave because they’d been offered a higher salary, only to come back because the other company didn’t have the same kind of welcoming environment.

“I believe we’re on the right track. There are always things we can improve, but we understand the need for a healthy work-life balance and emphasise to people that they should put their families first when they need to. We have an amazing HR team in place to make sure all our staff gets the support they need at work and in their personal life.

“We want an environment in which people can really focus and think ‘I’ll give my 110 per cent when I’m at work’, but know that outside working hours their time is truly their own to enjoy with family and friends.”